Aaron Nola
While Atlanta's formidable offense is widely acknowledged throughout baseball, few could have predicted the Philadelphia pitching staff conceding a staggering 21 runs in the first two games of the season. 
 
Yet, here we find ourselves. 
 
In a commanding 12-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday, the Braves showcased their offensive strength, with Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Marcell Ozuna, and Michael Harris II all contributing home runs, swiftly nullifying any anticipation of a pitching duel. 
 
Max Fried, a consistent 14-game winner for the Braves in both 2021 and 2022, faced a turbulent start, exiting the game after just seven batters. Struggling to find his rhythm, he issued three walks and secured only two outs in the first inning, leaving the Braves trailing 3-2. 
 
On the opposing mound, Aaron Nola, making his first regular-season start since signing a lucrative seven-year, $172 million deal, encountered one of the most challenging outings of his career. 
 
Nola (0-1) conceded homers to Albies and Olson among the 12 hits he allowed in a mere 4 1/3 innings. All told, he relinquished seven runs on 12 hits, disappointing the 44,068 fans at Citizens Bank Park. 
 
While the bullpen shouldered much of the blame on Friday, it was Nola who faltered on Saturday, throwing 83 pitches, with just 54 strikes. 
 
The Braves relentlessly battered Philadelphia pitching, amassing an impressive 19 hits. This offensive onslaught followed their seven-run eruption in the eighth inning of their 9-3 season-opening victory on Friday over the Phillies. 
 
Manager Rob Thomson explained that he opted not to remove Nola earlier to preserve some bullpen arms for Sunday's game, as five relievers had already been utilized in three innings during Friday's game, where the Phillies squandered a 2-0.
 
Nola acknowledged his poor performance, stating that although he felt physically fine, he struggled to get ahead in the count and had difficulty retiring the leadoff hitter. 
 
“It was that we didn’t get enough swing-and-misses," echoed catcher J.T. Realmuto. "It felt like they put the bat on the ball a lot, and when they did, when they put the ball in play, it seemed to find a lot of holes. I think it was just really not having a putaway pitch, necessarily. When we got to two strikes we didn’t execute enough to put guys away, and they put it in play and beat us that way.” 
 
Luis Ortiz entered the game in relief of Nola with one out in the fifth inning. After yielding a single to Orlando Arcia, the next batter, Travis d’Arnaud, hit a bouncer past Ortiz. However, second baseman Bryson Stott converted it into an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately, Ortiz leaped to attempt to intercept the grounder and tweaked his ankle on the play. 
 
Ortiz returned to the mound in the sixth inning, but his struggles persisted as he surrendered consecutive singles to Jarred Kelenic and Ronald Acuña Jr. Manager Rob Thomson said he left the contest with a left ankle sprain and will be reevaluated on Sunday. 
 
The Braves pushed two runs across in the opening frame, but the Phillies answered as Fried forced in a run on a bases-loaded walk before Stott delivered a go-ahead two-run single to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. 
 
The Braves wasted no time in the second inning, swiftly responding with a surge of offense. Travis d’Arnaud's two-run double, followed by his subsequent run scored on Kelenic's single, gave Atlanta the lead for good. 
 
Although Realmuto managed to blast a solo home run off Braves reliever Jesse Chavez in the third, it proved to be the final bright spot for the Phillies' offense. Struggling to capitalize on scoring opportunities, they went just 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position despite accumulating eight hits. 
 
"It's frustrating, but it is just two games in with 160 left," Realmuto said. "We want to win every game we can, but we have not gotten the outs that we needed to." 
 
Scary Moment 
While lunging to catch a foul ball in the first inning struck by Austin Riley, Bryce Harper took a tumble headfirst into the first base camera well. Despite returning to the game promptly and shrugging off assistance from the training staff, he exhibited slight bleeding on his hand. Harper remained in the game until the eighth inning. Thomson told reporters afterwards that Harper might feel sore Sunday but emphasized that he was in good condition. 
 
Up Next 
The Phillies will turn to Ranger Suarez on Sunday in hopes to salvage a win in this opening three-game set. The Braves counter with veteran lefty Chris Sale who will be making his debut with the Braves.  First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.

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